Dangerous Neighbors

( 5 )


It is 1876, the year of the Centennial in Philadelphia and Katherine has recently lost her twin sister Anna in a tragic skating acci­dent. The loss haunts and threatens to suffocate her, and one wickedly hot September day, Katherine sets out for the exhibition grounds to end the life she no longer wants to live. But Katherine's not as alone as she thinks, and a surprise encounter may just save her from her own tragic end. Filled with vivid detail and exquisite writing that artfully brings the past to life, ...

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It is 1876, the year of the Centennial in Philadelphia and Katherine has recently lost her twin sister Anna in a tragic skating acci­dent. The loss haunts and threatens to suffocate her, and one wickedly hot September day, Katherine sets out for the exhibition grounds to end the life she no longer wants to live. But Katherine's not as alone as she thinks, and a surprise encounter may just save her from her own tragic end. Filled with vivid detail and exquisite writing that artfully brings the past to life, National Book Award nominee Beth Kepart's Dangerous Neighbors is a timeless and finely crafted novel about betrayal and guilt, hope and despair, love, loss, and new begin­nings.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Set in Philadelphia against the backdrop of the 1876 Centennial Exhibition (the first World's Fair in the U.S.), this atmospheric novel traces the sentiments of grief-stricken Katherine, whose identical twin sister, Anna, died in a tragic accident earlier in the year. As the novel opens, Katherine, who feels responsible for Anna's death, has decided to take her own life. Again and again, she is drawn to the exhibition grounds. Here, futuristic marvels and unexpected events--including a disastrous fire--detain her from completing her suicidal mission. Losing herself in a throng of strangers, she re- examines her past, recalling the development of her sister's secret romance with a "dangerous neighbor" and the final sequence of events that led to Anna's death. Conjuring sharp, meticulously detailed images of fair exhibitions ("The wonders of the world slide past. Parisian corsets cavorting on their pedestals. Vases on lacquered shelves. Folding beds. Walls of cutlery. The sweetest assortment of sugar-colored pills, all set to sail on a yacht"), Kephart (The Heart Is Not a Size) evokes a tantalizing portrait of love, remorse, and redemption. Ages 12-up. (Aug.)
VOYA - Diane Colson
The 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition is in full swing, turning Katherine's home city into "a circus for a year." But for Katherine, it is all a noisy backdrop for her grief. The previous winter, Katherine's twin sister, Anna, died, leaving Katherine with such a heavy burden of guilt that she plans to kill herself in retribution. Her plan to leap from the top of the Colosseum is thwarted when Anna's lover, a baker's boy named Bennett, follows her to the roof. Bennetthas been following Katherine since Anna died, pleading with her to hear something he needs to tell her. But Katherine doesn't care what Bennett needs to say—all she knows is that Anna is gone, and soon she will join her. The strength of this novel is the marvelous recreation of Philadelphia in the summer of 1876. As a devastated Katherine roams the streets, Kephart keeps the reader firmly in step with vivid descriptions of the Centennial Exhibition and the greater Philadelphia area. However, the central tension of the story—why Katherine feels so responsible for Anna's death—is diluted in the careful creation of place and time. The characters at times seem like two-dimensional animations set against a vibrant background. Nevertheless, teens who enjoy historical fiction novels that feature love rather than war will be pleased to find this gentle, redemptive tale. Reviewer: Diane Colson
School Library Journal
Gr 6–10—Although born 20 minutes after her twin sister, 17-year-old Katherine has always been the rescuer, the watcher, the caretaker of the two. When readers meet her, she is disconsolate from Anna's death the winter before. She has plans to end her own life as her guilt and loneliness can't seem to be assuaged. The story of her emotional journey is set against a colorful cacophony of the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. Katherine wanders through throngs of tourists, buskers, and hawkers. Her first plan, to jump from the rooftop of a balconied tower in the "Paris by Night" Colosseum, is stopped by Bennett, the baker's boy whom Anna had loved. As Katherine struggles with her memories of the once-complete relationship with her sister that was forced to make room for a third, her feelings of alienation and her failure to protect the one she cherished most intensify, and she is drawn again and again into the false world of the Exhibition. Ultimately, it is through chance meetings with "dangerous neighbors" and caring strangers that Katherine begins to consider the possibilities of her own life going forward. Her forgiveness of Bennett and herself gives birth to a sense of hope and helps this tenderly crafted story end with a positive spin. Kephart has painted a vivid picture of the Exhibition. Readers can practically smell the roasted peanuts and feel the bruise of crowds shoving by as she creates a lively setting against which a quiet, desperate struggle is played out.—Karen Elliott, Grafton High School, WI
Kirkus Reviews

A young woman is lost in grief following the death of her twin sister in this tender, quiet work of historical fiction. Carried along by the character's dreamily melancholy narrative style, readers will drift with Katherine amid the grandeur of Philadelphia's 1876 Centennial Fair. At the novel's opening, her grief has reached a breaking point. Employing an effective flash–back-and-forward technique, the author gradually reveals details about the girls' relationship and the raw feeling of abandonment experienced by Katherine due to a clandestine affair Anna began in the months before her death. Eventually, the circumstances of her sister's death are uncovered in an exquisitely crafted memory as lovely in its imagery as it is tragic. Ringing less true, however, is the modern feel of the dialogue, given the supposed era. For example, during an argument, Katherine calls her sister a narcissist—a term not yet coined in psychology at the time. While this may not jar all readers, teens with an eye toward historical detail will likely take notice. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781606843116
  • Publisher: EgmontUSA
  • Publication date: 1/22/2013
  • Pages: 192
  • Age range: 12 years
  • Lexile: 930L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Beth Kephart is the author of 10 books, including the National Book Award finalist A Slant of Sun; the Book Sense pick Ghosts in the Garden; the autobiography of Philadelphia's Schuylkill River, Flow; the acclaimed business fable Zenobia; and the critically acclaimed novels for young adults, Under­cover, House of Dance, Nothing but Ghosts, and The Heart Is Not a Size. "The Longest Distance," a short story, appears in the May 2009 HarperTeen anthology, No Such Thing as the Real World.

Kephart has also won many honors, including the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fiction grant, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, a Leeway grant, a Pew Fellowships in the Arts grant, and the Speakeasy Poetry Prize. You can visit her online at www.beth-kephart.blogspot.com.
She lives in Philadelphia with her family

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 6, 2011

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    Reviewed by Melanie Foust for Teens Read Too

    Gold Star Award Winner! Anna died in a horrible accident. Katherine, her twin, is convinced there is nothing left to live for. She reaches a high level in a tall building, but her sister's former lover reaches her just in time, begging her to allow him to say something incredibly important. But Katherine does not stay to listen; neither does her resolve waver. Without Anna, life has lost its meaning. Katherine is on a journey to destruction, but if she takes a closer look at herself and the world around her, she may be able to reverse her path before it's too late. I loved how specific the setting was for this novel. Rather than just a general time and place, the setting was very clear: the Philadelphia Centennial fair of 1876. It's very evident that the author has done a large amount of research; all that work has not gone to waste. Details of the exhibition leap off the page. National book award finalist Beth Kephart has written another gorgeous novel full of characters that are slowly brought to life. By the time the end of the novel came around, I found myself fully invested in the life of Katherine and those closest to her. This book held my attention from beginning to end, first because of its suspenseful opening and then its enlightening flashbacks, showing what has brought Katherine to such a dark time in her life. At less than two-hundred pages, Beth Kephart makes every word count. DANGEROUS NEIGHBORS is the kind of book to keep and reread again and again.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 28, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Wow! Even though I¿m not a fan of historical fiction, the cover

    Wow! Even though I’m not a fan of historical fiction, the cover (isn’t it gorgeous?) and synopsis of this book grabbed my attention. I went back and forth trying to decide whether to give it a try or not. I really thought it sounded good, but it was a historical fiction. Finally I said go for it, and am so glad I did.

    The book started out interesting, and just kept getting better. The writing made me feel like I was there with Katherine and Anna. I could see the way Philadelphia looked during that time period, and everything became real to me. I felt sad when they did, and happy when they did.

    I loved all the descriptions of the everyday items that are so different than what we have now. All the characters had different relationships with each other, which I loved.

    One of the things that happened between Katherine and a girl she just met would never happen today, and I loved reading how life was back then, when those things could, and did, happen.

    This is a quick read at only 192 pages, but it is packed with everything it needs to keep you glued to the pages. This was my first Kephart book, but it won’t be my last.

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    Posted March 20, 2011

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